TIPPING POINTS

73% of people believe Earth approaching tipping points

Woman carrying child through flooded streat

In a survey produced by Ipsos MORI for the Global Commons Alliance, more than half of the people asked are extremely or very worried about the state of the global commons. Photo: World Meteorological Organisation

Survey in G20 countries shows people are willing to do more to become better “planetary stewards” and protect and regenerate the global commons

Story highlights

  • Survey produced by Ipsos MORI for the Global Commons Alliance
  • 58% of the respondents are extremely or very worried about the state of the global commons
  • New centre project FAIRTRANS commissioned the Swedish survey

CONCERNED ABOUT THE STATE OF THINGS: Following the recent ‘code red’ IPCC report, IPSOS Mori and the Global Commons Alliance have released research on public attitudes towards tipping points, planetary stewardship and necessary economic and societal transformations.

The Global Commons Alliance is a network of over 70 major international organisations created to protect the global commons. Stockholm Resilience Centre is a founding partner of the Global Commons Alliance. The survey was supported by FAIRTRANS, a new centre research programme exploring sustainable transformation of societies.

The report, The Global Commons Survey: Attitudes to planetary stewardship and transformation among G20 countries states that across the world’s largest economies, 73% of people believe Earth is approaching potentially abrupt or irreversible tipping points because of human action.

And 83% of people are willing to do more to become better “planetary stewards” and protect and regenerate the global commons.

Not sleepwalking towards catastrophe

People in developing economies showed greater willingness to do more to protect nature and climate than those in advanced economies: Indonesia (95%), South Africa (94%), China (93%), Mexico (93%), Brazil (91%), compared with Japan (61%), Germany (70%), and the United States (74%).

The world is not sleepwalking towards catastrophe. People know we are taking colossal risks, they want to do more and they want their governments to do more.

Owen Gaffney, lead author and director of communications for the Global Commons Alliance

Discontent with economic systems

The survey highlighted significant discontent with the dominant economic systems across G20 countries. Among G20 countries, 74% of people support the idea that their country moves beyond a singular focus on profit and economic growth and focus more on human wellbeing and ecological protection and regeneration.

This view is consistently high among all G20 countries. It is particularly high in Indonesia (86%), Turkey (85%) and Russia (84%), but even the lowest scoring countries score highly: United States (68%), Great Britain (68%), Canada (69%).

The survey also revealed that people are less aware of the scientific consensus that sweeping systemic transformations needed in the next decade to protect the global commons and meet climate targets set out in the UN’s Paris Agreement.

Elizabeth Wathuti, environmentalist and climate activist from Kenya, founder of Green Generation Initiative and head of campaigns at Wangari Maathai Foundation, wrote the foreword for the report:

Time to transform

While 59% of people in G20 countries know scientists acknowledge a very rapid energy transition is needed in the next decade, just 8% of people think this is about a need for broader economic changes in the next decade including dietary change, price of goods and services to include environmental costs and moving to circular economies. '

However, 28% of people are aware that scientists think significant change is needed.

“The majority of people in most countries know we need to transform our energy systems, with about a third also acknowledging the need to also transform our food, value and economic systems. As in previous environmental attitude surveys women and younger people are more concerned and action oriented than men.” said Diana Liverman, member of the Earth Commission, US National Academy of Science and Professor at the School of Geography, Development and Environment, University of Arizona.

Survey details

The survey was carried out by Ipsos MORI in April and May, 2021 – before the release of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report. It was conducted across G20 countries with 19,735 people surveyed (plus an additional survey in Sweden published separately). Interviews were conducted online. In each country, the data is weighted to be representative of the national population.

G20 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, (plus the European Union).

Data is also available for Sweden.

The survey was supported by Earth4All, a new initiative exploring pathways and new economic systems to stabilize Earth and deliver prosperity to the majority, and FAIRTRANS, a new Swedish research programme exploring sustainable transformation of societies.

The Global Commons Survey: Attitudes to planetary stewardship and transformation among G20 countries.

Published: 2021-08-17

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For more information contact lead author owen.gaffney@su.se

Twitter: @owengaffney

Tel: +46 734604833

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